Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bala Gala the Brave and Dangerous by Gita V. Reddy

Title : Bala Gala the Brave and Dangerous
Author : Gita V. Reddy
Illustrations by : VC Arts

'Bala Gala the Brave and Dangerous' is a cute little story which celebrates imagination of tender minds as the main theme. Every child is a gifted dreamer, and the flights of imagination take him to far and wider places which may not even exist in the practical world.

There once was a Gamba-Bamba forest in which a river Kanga flowed. Bala Gala was a tiger in that forest who roared ferociously. Earlier he was a deer, who was quick and fast. There were many other co-inhabitants of the forests too. Brammy-Gommy, the crocodile who always wanted to eat Bala-Gala whenever he came to the river to drink water. Once when a monster came to the jungle, Bala Gala turned into a fire dragon to scare the monster away. In every flight of his imagination, he made many friends, scared some away, saved some but enjoyed every tryst thoroughly.

Yes, these are all imaginations of a little child who wakes up every day with a fresh adventure in mind. Just by imagining himself to be a different creature every morning, he weaves a unique world around it.

Role play is a great way by which little children learn and entertain themselves. The author has done perfectly well in reaching out to the children through their dreamland where they usually love to reside. In fact, the ability to be able to imagine oneself to be anything is quite empowering. One can choose to be anybody or anything and that is what Gita has allowed Bala Gala to be. He chooses to be a deer first but when Brammay-Gommay frightens him,  he decides to be a tiger instead. And on a beautiful bright morning he looks forward to being a pretty butterfly. There is no end to the options and hence the excitement is endless too.

Illustrations beautifully accentuate the impact of the story.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Author- Roald Dahl
Illustration- Quentin Blake

Rating- 4.5/5
Review by- VIDHI SETHI (13 yrs)

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, a delightful kidlit book is a sure pleasure to read. The story mainly revolves around the narrator and the Greggs. It starts by telling us about the unfortunate series of events that happen with Ms. Winter thanks to our dear narrator’s Magic Finger.

Our little 8yr old narrator hates hunting. Whenever she sees Mr. Gregg and his two sons, Philip and William hunting she gets really angry. Once she sees the trio bringing back a beautiful, golden deer that they had shot. As usual, she starts seeing red, gets hot all over and her finger begins tingling most terribly and unknowingly her Magic Finger touches the Greggs and the adventure begins. The whole family turns into ducks and spends the night in a nest on a tree eating slumburgers and wormburgers. The story continues with the Greggs finally understanding the fact that even birds love freedom and shouldn’t be hunted. The little narrator’s Magic Finger is very helpful in transforming the Greggs.

The book has a beautiful storyline and is worth a read. Complete with attractive pictures the story seems even better. It’s a wonderful example of Roald Dahl’s way of capturing the reader’s attention and making it extremely tough for him/her to keep the book down. It’s a really sweet and interesting book with a nice ending and a good moral. Once you read it, you'll sure bless me for suggesting this book to you. ;) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The India I Love by Ruskin Bond

Title : The India I Love
Author : Ruskin Bond
Publisher : Rupa 
ISBN : 81-291-0397-4

Ruskin Bond mesmerizes his readers yet again through his straight from the heart collection of prose and poems. This is his way of expressing his feelings for his beloved adopted country with all her animate and inanimate beings, their uniqueness, their character and how all these combine to create a unique flavour of Indian-ness.

In some chapters, he reminisces about his earlier days, the time when he decided to make India and specifically her hills his home and leave West for good. In his words, "The link with Britain was tenuous, based on heredity rather than upbringing.  It was more in the mind. It was a literary England that I had been drawn to, not a physical England. " 
He talks about the mountains and hills, rivers and its tributaries, various people and their idiosyncrasies.
He sprinkles the chapters with some nuggets of wisdom that he has processed over the years by observing people and his surroundings keenly.
"A well-balanced person : someone with a chip on both shoulders
Experience : The knowledge that enables you to recognise a mistake when you make it the second time
Sympathy : What one woman offers another in exchange for details
Worry : The interest paid on trouble before it becomes due"

His adroitness to write about himself with utmost sincerity and transparency becomes apparent time and again by the ease with which he packs self-mockery in his writings. His honesty and humility reach out to the readers unadulterated as he cloaks his feelings in simple yet effective language.  A slice of his humility and critical analysis of himself get reflected in these lines -
"I am not the most inventive of writers, and fantastical plots are beyond me. My forte is observation, recollection and reflection. "

Ruskin Bond's writings are so true to the soil of this country in its original form, it clearly displays his sensitivity in observing, experiencing, absorbing, imbibing and processing the Indian-ness in his system and what comes out through his pen is the essence of his relationship with the country and with everything belonging to it. 
The peace and serenity in his writings transport the readers to a blissful state of living the life in its entirety with every single moment registering its presence and with every single thing getting observed, acknowledged and appreciated in the same way as Ruskin Bond does on his solitary walks.
"I prefer walking alone to walking with others. That ladybird on the wild rose would escape my attention if I was engaged in a lively conversation with a companion. Not that the ladybird is going to change my life. But by acknowledging its presence, stopping to admire its beauty, I have paid obeisance to the natural scheme of things of which I am only a small part."

Whenever I get a chance to conduct interviews with the authors, I often ask them for their suggestions to the aspiring/budding authors. But without having directly asked Ruskin Bond, I got the answer from him in this book -
"If you, dear reader, have any ambitions to be a writer, you must first rid yourself of any notion that perfect peace and quiet is the first requirement. There is no such thing as perfect peace and quiet except perhaps in a monastery or a cave in the mountains. And what would you write about, living in a cave? One should be able to write in a train, a bus, a bullock-cart, in good weather or bad, on a park bench or in the middle of a noisy classroom.

While I was editing this review, I noticed that I have used so many of his quotes directly here. This clearly shows that no words are worthy enough to carry the essence of his writings and they are best as they are. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stained Glass Summer by Mindy Hardwick

Title: Stained Glass Summer

Author: Mindy Hardwick

Type: e-book

The storyline of Stained Glass Summer revolves around a 12 year old girl, Jasmine, whose father is an artist and a photographer. Like her father, she is also obsessed by ‘art’ and dreams of being an artist like him. He in turn, fanatical about his ‘art’ and the awards he receives, is very distracted and does not care about his wife and daughter and does not give them much attention and freedom. He finally deserts them and goes looking for ‘art’ in Africa. Jasmine goes to spend her summer on her uncle’s island and finds the meaning of life there. She finds her true love- Cole, the importance of her existence – Sammy, a free environment and much more. There she tries to contact her father, who still seems to be existing only for his ‘art’ and awards and finally decides that she will stay on the island and mentor a 5 year old instead of going back to him. She also finds that true art is all about happiness and satisfaction and not only about awards.

It is basically a story of a little girl who does not receive much affection from her father, but instead does so in a clumsy 5 year old.

The author has used a 12 year old as her mouthpiece to expressively describe the events that happen in life. An adult narrator might have been more objective in the description. The book gives a profound report on what the average pre-teen feels about life.  I personally believe undue stress has been laid on the concept of ‘art’ and the little girl's attempts to be something other than what she actually is, has been stretched too far. But the emotional account of the happenings and the events gives a very deep insight of the minds of the characters and goes a long way in making the novel an interesting read.

A good one-time, leisure read indeed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude 
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
No. of Pages: 457

It is said if you want to learn English then Bible is the book you must read. I believe, if you want to understand any concept of universe then Bible answers them all.
“ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE” is a brief snapshot of Bible only. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez has written an excellent piece, which is a true embodiment of the vicious circle of life. The only reason it is vicious is because it will end at where it all started. Kids usually ask this from elders, who was the first person on this planet and usually they all get different answers from different kinds of people. Few books say “Manu” was the first person and that all would end because of war and violence.
Mocando is a little world isolated from the outside one and the first family out there is of Buendias. José Arcadio Buendía, head of the family is involved in mysterious and scientific inventions and always tries to find logic behind the events.
Turnaorund happens when people of the village are exposed to other ideas and people and that is the moment when everything starts getting messed up in Mocando. It is quite interesting that whenever few leaders think that this is right for the growth of our country or village in the book is possible in long term only if leaders have the traits to control that much power and handle the consequences of it as well.
Head of the family, Jose, was not able to control the happenings and thus war continues and unrest prevails everywhere. Lust for power among the second generation can be seen clearly as after series of wars, Aureliano becomes the leader of the Liberal rebels and governments keep on changing after that. We observe the worst of relationships when people fight and even births, deaths and love affairs take an ugly shape. Author describes various events and centuries go by where people die, come into this village, they fight and then rest in peace. The lady of the house Ursula Iguarán tries to bring that love and unity in her family back but the golden thread of unity was not just broken, but burnt to ashes.  Then banana movement happened just like any other world war and banana workers went on strike. Dead people were dumped in the sea and then nature took its toll.
This is a marvel of a book, a must read for all the intellectual and the thinking beings, and I would surely want readers to feel the end of this story so as to know whether the village came back to normal state or not? Whether anyone survived or not? If yes, then who it was? Was it somebody from high income group or one of the banana workers? Whether anybody was left in this village to celebrate their victory? And the most importantly will this be the way human race will end on this planet earth?

(This review has been contributed by Suhani Bhareja, MBA Candidate at IIM Calcutta)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sita's Sister by Kavita Kane

Title : Sita's Sister
Author : Kavita Kane
Publisher : Rupa
ISBN : 978-81-291-3484-4

So  many questions keep flooding a thinking individual's mind, more so after reading thought provoking books like Sita's Sister. What is just, what is dharma, which is bigger - a role or an individual, where does duty of one end and the personal space of another begin, who decides which role takes precedence over another, does love mean being someone's weakness or strength, should love surpass duty or the other way round, and many more.

Kavita Kane brings to fore one of those characters of the epic Ramayana who have grossly been ignored by the center stage lights. Urmila is often remembered as one of King Janak's daughters, Sita's younger sister and Lakshman's wife.  Paeans have been written about the sacrifices of the prime characters of the mythology in whose shadow many characters have been eclipsed. Lord Ram smilingly renounced his right on the throne of Ayodhya to follow the promise that his father gave to one of his wives. His worldly consort Sita gave a glimpse of her fortitude by choosing the same path for herself as was destined for her husband. Lakshman chose to let his course get automatically sealed as he could not think of not being with his elder brother during the exile period of 14 years.  Bharat decided to spend the 14 years of Ram's exile in complete abstinence of all royal pleasures as a way of his penance. These are the towering embodiments of ideals in the epic story, but often, the larger than life sagas end up neglecting the contributions of some, who silently bear the consequences of others' decisions and promises. Their greatness lies in invisibly supporting the main players.

In Sita's Sister, Kavita Kane has lent that missing voice to Urmila. The title itself is extremely well thought out, true to the life spent over-shadowed and outshone. Here Urmila is portrayed as a delicately beautiful, spirited young princess who knows her mind and has no qualms in voicing it too. She is not the one who wants to live in illusion or any make believe world. She comes across as an individual who acknowledges and accepts her situations gracefully - whether it is of being a second fiddle to the adopted elder sister Sita or submitting to the fact that her husband would remain committed to his brotherly duties over and above her. But this does not push her down rather she reciprocates the favour by being a source of strength for her loved ones.

She displays the mettle and the fortitude to provide the anchorage to her family whether it was her parental one or later her marital kinship. She tries her best to sew the relationships and while doing so, she poses some very pertinent questions from time to time. Her voiced displeasure on Bharat's decision of spending the next 14 years in Nandigram is clear example of her confident and intrepid nerve. She questions his dharma towards his wife Mandavi - 'we have talked about all sorts of dharma - of the father and the sons, of the king and the princes, of the Brahmin and the Kshatriya, even of the wife for the husband. But is there no dharma of the husband for his wife?'

There cannot be any surprise on the plot front yet the narrative from the perspective of a different character makes it appear so very uniquely distinct.

Some other characters that make their presence felt significantly in the story are that of mother Sunaina and Lakshman. Though a queen, Sunaina is a mother first and wants happiness of her daughters even if it means disregarding the political bindings. The part where she confesses her conduct in front of Urmila, would surely touch readers' inner chords. 'Probably I expected too much from you. Or, because I felt you were mine, the daughter of my flesh and blood, unlike Sita or the motherless Mandavi and Kirti. That's why I was over-protective for them but harsher to you.'

Lakshman has always given an impression of being a person who is devoutly committed to his brotherly duties all through his life and his personal relationships and bonds never surface in prominence. But in Sita's Sister, he comes across as a person who is equally vulnerable and emotional as is any other individual. He also needs someone from whom he could derive his treasure of strength. To deliver on his lofty ideals, he depends on two women in his life - his mother and his wife. Separation from his wife is no less torturous for him either but he wants his 'Mila' to make it easier for him because he acknowledges what she is, in his life 'you are my strength but also my weakness'.

This story very strongly brings back the memories of MaithiliSharan Gupt's Saket, another must read by the connoisseurs of mythology and appreciators of subtle human emotions.

Kavita Kane's language has contemporary feel to it which makes the narrative more relatable for the present-day readers. Also, some of the questions that are raised in the narrative seem equally relevant. Personally I see nothing wrong in re-defining and re-analysing the age old mythology. I firmly believe that the way any story (epic or otherwise) is understood, analysed and presented has a lot to do with a myriad of factors - the time, and the prevailing mindset, customs and culture of that time. So when we experience almost complete metamorphosis of our society with time, perhaps mythology also looks for re-definitions from time to time. 

Cannot help quoting some pearls of wisdom from the book -

...when love surpasses duty, it is salvation.

Unhappiness makes us self-absorbed, it makes one think only of oneself- of the pain, and misery one is suffering.

Only with detachment one learns the value of love versus the range of emotions - exile from attachment.